Free Stuff for Your Mainframe: 2013 Edition

FREE! That's a word we all like to hear, though maybe "no additional charge" is more truthful since nothing in life is truly free. In the past I've listed many of the mainframe freebies available, and those posts have been popular. This post is an update since there are so many more mainframe freebies now. Please do grab these freebies, explore, and put them to productive use. After all, the price is right.


Free Mainframes

Free mainframes? Did you say free mainframes? Yes, you can get access to mainframes free of charge with certain caveats. Here are some examples:


Free Mainframe Operating Systems

Linux is an open source operating system licensed per the GNU Public License (GPL). This type of license means that you don't have to pay a license fee to obtain and to use Linux, though Linux distributors (such as Novell and Red Hat) charge fees if you want their optional support services. Here are some examples of Linux distributions and other operating systems available for zEnterprise:


IBM Freebies for z/OS, z/TPF, z/VSE, and z/VM


Other Freebies (Mostly for z/OS)


I'm sure I'm only providing a partial list of mainframe freebies, but it's a start. Have fun!

by Timothy Sipples August 29, 2013 in Application Development, Economics, Linux, z/OS
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Server Hardware Trends: A Commodity Market Plus IBM

The New York Times summarized the latest IDC and Gartner server marketshare reports, highlighting the rise of the non-branded custom-built commodity server makers that supply big Internet firms such as Facebook. "Others" is now the #3 server "vendor" on a hardware revenue basis and #1 on a volume basis. (On a revenue basis, IBM is #1 and HP is #2.)

These long running trends are fascinating, and I've described them before in various ways. I think it's important, though, to distinguish between IBM and HP because they have very different positions in the overall market. IBM is now the only remaining credible vendor of "high-end" servers. We've seen time and time again in many markets — retailing, to pick an excellent example — that getting stuck in the middle is a bad place to be because competitors are both attacking from below and above. The attack from below is based fundamentally on price, particularly acquisition price. Those are the "Others." The attack from above is based on value, sustained high levels of research and development to deliver innovation, and best-of-breed capabilities and qualities. That's IBM. In the middle is HP, the JCPenney of the server market. In a few more quarters Dell will probably be right there, too, but we'll see.

I very much like IBM's position given these market trends, and I'm not too worried about the slight hardware revenue dip IDC and Gartner reported given the structure of that dip. IBM's high-end got higher, to put it succinctly, and there's some good evidence IBM's margins improved. Moreover, most of IBM's revenues associated with its servers are not measured by its hardware revenues alone, and that's unique to IBM. When HP sells servers they typically don't include much else from HP that customers buy. In contrast, it's very rare that an IBM server gets sold without substantial IBM content that customers buy.

I don't know exactly how big the high-end server market will be, but it will continue to be a terrific business amidst the continuing explosion of information, long-term economic trends, and increasing quality demands. As long as IBM keeps finding ways to differentiate and to innovate up and down their solution set, the company will do fine, and more importantly so will its many and growing numbers of customers. However, while IBM is very much pursuing its high-end strategy with gusto, IBM is also eager to push into volume markets as well — IBM in the role of Target (and/or Costco) to offer an alternative to Walmart, metaphorically speaking. I'm referring of course to IBM's OpenPOWER Consortium with Google, NVIDIA, and others.

So these Gartner and IDC reports are really not good news for HP in particular. As I've said before I don't know how HP gets out of its shrinking box. HP's CEO Meg Whitman has a tough job.

by Timothy Sipples August 29, 2013 in Cloud Computing, Economics, Financial, Systems Technology
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IBM Announces the OpenPOWER Consortium

IBM's Tom Rosamilia describes IBM's OpenPOWER Consortium announcement. IBM is sharing the complete blueprints for its POWER microprocessors with several major industry partners: Google, NVIDIA, Mellanox, and TYAN. Others are welcome to join. Yes, that Google, the search giant that buys many thousands of bespoke servers but which also has some of the most challenging data center-related problems in the world. Now Google gets an entire, more advanced microprocessor design to use as it pleases.

It's no secret that the traditional RISC UNIX market has struggled. IBM has been steadily gobbling up UNIX server marketshare for several years as other UNIX vendors, lately HP and Oracle/Sun, collapsed. But it's not good enough to dominate a (probably) declining market, so IBM is wisely trying to expand the whole market and go all-in on Linux cloud infrastructure. IBM has got some superb launch partners in that effort.

I think it's a bold IBM move but a calculated one. IBM is basically trying to replicate ARM's success in the processor licensing business but in a much different market, a market Intel currently dominates with its proprietary X86 architecture. I'm referring to massive, horizontal scale-out computing architectures in remote (typically) data centers: large Linux-based public clouds, notably Google's, but also with NVIDIA-infused GPU technologies for supercomputing (as another example). Not competing with ARM at all which, despite a few rumblings, isn't charging into data centers. Optimizing microprocessors for mobile use cases is quite different than optimizing for public cloud backends.

So will Intel get "squeezed" in the middle? The middle has proven to be a dangerous place to be in the server processor business. Which is why I also remain extremely bullish on zEnterprise, by the way (and which is doing very well indeed). It's certainly an interesting development, and it's really good news for customers. Frankly IBM had to do something bold, and this move definitely qualifies.

It also puts IBM's acquisition of SoftLayer into better focus. I was a little unclear how SoftLayer would fit into IBM's strategy, but now it makes a lot more sense. It also makes complete sense for IBM's launch partners to join the OpenPOWER Consortium.

I like this.

by Timothy Sipples August 7, 2013 in Cloud Computing, Linux, Systems Technology
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U.S. Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Infosys

The Register reports on a new class action lawsuit filed against Infosys in the United States. The lawsuit alleges that Infosys practices employment discrimination on the basis of race and national origin.

I have no idea whether the lawsuit has merit or not. That said, in my view Infosys is going to have a tough time explaining how the demographic makeup of its U.S.-based workforce is not prima facie evidence of widespread employment discrimination in the U.S.

Let be clear on a couple points, though. First, I'm a huge supporter of workforce diversity. Organizations are stronger and more effective, in my experience, when they have workforces consisting of talented individuals with the broadest possible range of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives. If the lawsuit is correct, that description does not apply to today's Infosys in the U.S.

The other point I would make is one I've made before on a few occasions in different ways. IT choices have great and growing impact on total staffing levels and costs. As businesses continue to try to find ways to reduce costs — or to further pad their profits if you prefer — they will continue naturally focusing on labor costs. This relentless business behavior is a major public policy challenge among other things. Like most countries, particularly among developed economies, the U.S. expects employers to follow a few rules to support some limited public policy objectives. Unemployment insurance is one example among many.

In general, organizations which are taking advantage of mainframe technology, especially new mainframe technologies, have strong, highly labor-efficient IT infrastructures. Yes, that infrastructure requires some competent, experienced individuals who command reasonable salaries and workplace comforts (and should). Greater overall business efficiency and better service qualities are never free. Unfortunately there are many organizations that are not taking advantage of these mainframe-unique efficiencies and that are trying to cope with escalating staffing requirements to manage sprawling IT infrastructure that's increasingly getting out of control. As those cost pressures further mount there will be too many individuals and companies that try to bend or break the rules such as important labor laws.

Maybe I just described Infosys and its behavior, or maybe not. The plaintiffs have to prove their case, and it's not particularly hard to file a lawsuit. I'll be watching this case and other, similar workplace developments to see what they portend for the future of IT employment in the U.S. and elsewhere.

by Timothy Sipples August 6, 2013 in Current Affairs, People
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